LAKELAND BREWERS GUILD

LAKELAND BREWERS GUILD

Members Share Friendships, Knowledge, and Love a Good Brew

 

BY: LORRAINE BLOETH VALERINO

PHOTOS COURTESY OF LAKELAND BREWERS GUILD

 

Enjoying a good brew literally dates back thousands of years as is evident on the pottery shards found in the ruins of ancient civilizations.

Gathering to share life’s memorable moments while enjoying “a cold one” continues to be popular among area home brewers who are members of the Lakeland Brewers Guild (LBG). When the common topic is home brewing – well, pull up a bar stool for a hearty “Cheers!” to yeast and fermentation.

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Organized more than five years ago, the LBG “provides the perfect opportunity and environment for homebrew enthusiasts of all levels to meet, socialize, compete and discuss the fine points of home brewing,” said Nick Wozniak, 33, current LBG President, noting there are currently some 40+ members. “The club promotes home brewing education and camaraderie among adult beverage connoisseurs.”

Like many others involved in the club, Wozniak, a local electrical engineer, became interested in craft beers and home brewing during his college days at the University of South Florida when introduced by a friend. “Most home brewers focus on ales,” said Wozniak, explaining the fermentation is accomplished at room temperature as opposed to the temperature-controlled climate needed to develop a lager. “The brewing process is basically broken into three phases – boiling, fermentation and racking,” said Wozniak, adding good ale can take as little as six to eight weeks. “Sometimes fermentation takes four months, due to a variety of different factors. This all depends upon the ingredients and what result you, as the brewer, are trying to achieve.”

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While there are a lot of quality home brewing educational materials on-line, Wozniak and other LBG members enjoy the knowledge gleaned from monthly interactions at local meeting places that have included The Brass Tap at Lakeland’s Lakeside Village, Fresco’s Bakery and Bistro in Downtown Lakeland, Preservation Hall in Downtown Lakeland, RJ Grady’s Burgers and Brew in North Lakeland, and Texas Cattle Company in Downtown Lakeland, among others. Meetings are scheduled the last Saturday of the month at 3 p.m. “We like to vary the meeting locations to support the local businesses that promote craft beers,” said Wozniak. “One reason the Guild is great is that you learn so much from each of the members. It really cuts the learning curve. Talking to other brewers is so important.”

“We first introduced craft beers to the area around 2005,” said Gus Palas of Preservation Hall. “We have a passion for supporting good food, drink and the arts. We enjoy having their members meet here.”

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In addition to the social aspect of the club, being philanthropic also plays a big role in the organization, according to Wozniak; adding the group has organized a BrewFest event through which 100-percent of the proceeds are donated to groups like the AGAPE Food Bank and the Military Order of the Purple Heart. “It’s important for us to give back,” said Wozniak.

“There’s been a craft beer explosion in this country,” said Garrick Johnson, 41, current LBG Treasurer and a certified national beer judge, who has judged various home brewing competitions throughout Florida. “This has created an increased interest in home brewing. When I first started attending LBG meetings, there were five or six regulars attending; but now there are dozens of us.”

Like Wozniak, Johnson became interested in home brewing during his college days at the University of Florida. His interest evolved into becoming part of the judging circuit. “My best advice is to keep it simple at first. Get your technique right with the process before experimenting with moreinvolved recipes,” said Johnson. “I don’t know that I’ve brewed the same beer twice myself. I like the variety.”

“The real purpose of having your beer judged is to have an objective person evaluate your beer so you can make improvements,” said Johnson, noting judges make comments on each brew and assign a grade with this feedback.

 

 

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